Columnist Jim Shaw has a dim, depressing view of human life. Invoking an illusory sense of personal autonomy, he cavalierly brushes aside the dignity inherent in each person's existence.
The proposed law would change what is now a felony, helping someone kill himself, into a "health care" treatment. The proposal provides that "qualified" health care providers can sign off on a person's life, akin to signing a death certificate while the patient lives. The term "health care provider" could include a broad range of people such as the late Dr. Kevorkian. Shaw writes that two "physicians" must certify that the person is ready for suicide, but his term is narrower than the proposal. The proposal would open a commercial opportunity for suicide-friendly "health care providers." Once included in the broad category of "health care providers," those sympathetic to the notion could establish a cottage industry of certifying people to kill themselves. The Orwellian scenario is obvious: helping people kill themselves becomes care for their health.
With the shift of assisting suicide from a felony to health care, the fees of the helpers are arguably covered by insurance plans, Medicare and Medicaid included. Will it be the official policy of Minnesota that those assisting suicide can be paid from public insurance plans or, if the patient is uninsured, from welfare funds? Family members of a terminally ill person who are overwhelmed with the financial, psychological, and physical burdens of caring for that person might be encouraged by the existence of the statute to suggest, nudge, cajole, or even threaten the sick person to take advantage of the law and sign their life away. Thus would end the burden of care, degrading the dignity of the patient's life to that of the old sick cat. The deceased would be "put out of his misery," but so would the burdened family members. The potential for abuse is indeed great.
Long ago, Minnesota considered life so sacred that it quit killing condemned criminals; the death penalty was abolished in 1911. More than 100 years later, the state wants to abandon a policy that reflects the sanctity and dignity of life by statutorily encouraging helping people kill themselves. The "health care providers" become "death providers."